It’s time for straight talking: Australia are simply better than us
England’s bowlers have no pace and batsmen are being careless
Let’s be brutally honest. For the all the upbeat talk from our players and the hopes and expectations from our supporters, Australia are better than us. The Ashes are gone. We are not coming back from 2-0 down. England have a massive job avoiding a 5-0 thrashing.
These two Tests have been played on slow Australian pitches and one was a day-night Test in English-type conditions that should have given Joe Root’s team a great chance of a win.
England competed occasionally but for huge periods, and at the crucial moments, we were just not good enough and lost by large margins in both Tests.
England have won two sessions over 10 days of Test cricket. They cannot make enough runs to give the bowlers a decent chance. Unless Alastair Cook or Root scores a century, you feel the others will get themselves out.
How can you put pressure on the opposition with batting totals of 302 and 190 in Brisbane and 227 and 233 in Adelaide? Irresponsible, careless strokes are down to the mental side of Test batting as much as technique.
Many of our guys are not prepared to work for their runs. They come in playing shots straight away as if it is one-day cricket. Do they not understand that scoring rates do not mean anything, or that how many balls you receive, the number of fours and sixes you hit, are unimportant?
Australia have a very good four-man bowling attack who put us under pressure, so patience, concentration and a good defence are absolutely vital as they do not give away too many easy, hittable balls.
Root won the toss and probably thought in overcast weather that might be England’s best chance of getting 20 wickets. I did not agree at the time and still don’t. If you have a modest or inexperienced batting line up, you are under even more pressure batting second chasing a total.
So many of them do not have the discipline to wait for a ball to hit. Their judgment on shot selection is poor. For example, England had five sessions in the field and a lot of time to watch Shaun Marsh bat. He occupied the crease, let balls go he did not have to play outside off stump. He grafted hard with determination, defended nearly 200 dot balls and batted almost eight hours in the middle. Only after he had scored a century and earned the right to play shots did he start to bat expansively.
England learned nothing watching him. When England batted on the second evening, Mark Stoneman made a quick, streaky 19. Next morning – fourth ball – James Vince attempted one of the most difficult shots to the new ball. A back foot drive is fraught with danger because it only has to move a fraction or bounce a bit and you are gone. The bowlers and slips love you to try that shot to a new ball. Vince could and should have left it. Root drove at a wide ball as soon as he came in and was caught at third slip. Moeen Ali tried to whip the turning ball through midwicket against the spin and Jonny Bairstow was caught and bowled, head high driving on the up. If you give away first-innings wickets like that then you are in a mess.
England have no pace to hurt or unsettle Australia’s batsmen. James Anderson and Stuart Broad are good with the new ball but so are Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins. When the Kookaburra ball loses its hardness and shine, Australia can still attack and unsettle our batsmen with pace and short balls. Unless we have English conditions, our second-string seamers look as if they are bowling their batsmen in rather than out. In Nathan Lyon, Australia have a wicket-taking spinner who can dismiss batsmen like Graeme Swann used to do in his prime. Moeen is totally ineffective and that is a huge problem.
Clare Connor, former England women’s cricket captain and full-time paid employee of the England and Wales Cricket Board, tweeted that I was arrogant and unbearable with my comments because I was critical and did not praise England enough.
I do not see how I can say good things out of bad cricket. England are 2-0 down after two Tests and have been totally outplayed. I am not here to be England’s cheerleader. I am in Australia to be objective and tell viewers, listeners and readers my honest opinion. Clare is not in a position to be unbiased or neutral in her opinions as she is paid by the ECB.
My personal feelings are that I would love to praise England and for them to beat the Aussies. But I have to give my honest professional opinions. I played in seven Ashes series, was on four winning teams and lost once. I toured Australia four times as a player and many times as commentator so I believe I have a decent idea of what is required to win Tests in these Australian conditions.
All over: Australia celebrate taking the final wicket of Jonny Bairstow